Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards of 2017

It’s that time of year again! Woo-hoo, awards!

As always, these are about my personal preferences and just for fun.

The Sorry, Television, This Year the Movies Kicked YOUR Butt Award

Wonder Woman, the No Man’s Land Sequence

Yep, the movies finally did it. After years of TV out-doing, out-creating, out-character-driving action sequences, this year’s Wonder Woman did more than vanquish the movie villain.

I’ll be honest—I’m not really that into comic book movies. I went to see Wonder Woman for two reasons: to support a female-driven action movie and a woman director. I was stunned by how much I loved it, even to the point of tears. I’ve been waiting for a movie like this my whole life.

The No Man’s Land sequence, with a woman not listening to a man, facing down the danger alone, doing it for no reason other than it was the right thing to do, was THE high point of movie-watching for me this year. It was spectacularly shot by director Patty Jenkins, and totally grounded in Diana’s character.

There’s always next year, TV.

The THIS is How You Pass the Bechdel Test Award

Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Wonder Woman

Another reason I love Wonder Woman is the way it aces the Bechdel Test (has to be at least one scene of two women talking about something other than a man). It’s a low bar to clear but both Wonder Woman and Star Wars: The Last Jedi took giant leaps over it.

I will be posting my full review of The Last Jedi in a few days, but one of my favorite things about it is the heroic women, including new characters Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and the briefly appearing but critical Paige Tico (Veronica Ngo), who joined General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Rey (Daisy Ridley). On top of that, it was an awesome farewell to Fisher. I’m sad she not going to be in Episode IX, but happy her final Star Wars appearance did so much justice to her character.

The A for Effort, D for Stale Comedy Award

The Orville

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed the first season of Seth MacFarlane’s TV parody of Star Trek, The Orville. Even more surprised to find that as a space opera, it’s remarkably thoughtful and has the optimism that defines the genre. Even though it doesn’t always hit the mark, it makes some serious attempts to tackle many social issues.

Unfortunately, the comedy part of the show is kind of blah and makes me wish that he had just decided to skip making a parody and make this a straight space opera. For one thing, much of the humor is based in present-day pop culture, which is like making a show that takes place today where many of the jokes refer to the 17th century.

Still, I believe this show has a ton of potential and look forward to Season 2.

The O.K., I Was Wrong, The Great British Bake-Off is Still Great Award

Channel Four’s Reboot of The Great British Bake-Off

Last year I was very upset to learn that judge Mary Berry and hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins would not migrate with the show from BBC to Channel Four.

Turns out, the show is still just fine without them. Yes, I miss them, but the replacement hosts, Sandi Toksvig and Neil Fielding are very good. (I also rather like that an older woman replaced a younger woman for a change.) I’m also warming up to Prue Leith as Paul Hollywood’s co-judge.

The fact is, it’s the show’s format that makes it the enjoyable watch and huge success that it is.

My bad.

The Stop Making Stars Too Vain to Wear Their Reading Glasses Presenters at the Oscars Award

Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway’s blunder when announcing the 2016 Best Picture winner.

What a horrible spectacle that was, watching Beatty and Dunaway erroneously announce La La Land had won Best Picture, then the mistake being discovered that Moonlight had actually won.

It was not only massively embarrassing, it wrecked what should have been a phenomenal moment in Oscar history, when the first film with an LGBT theme and predominately African-American cast won Best Picture.

There are big stars who can read the cards correctly. Use them next time.

The Margaret Atwood Adaptation That Won’t Get the Awards but Deserves All the Awards Award

Alias Grace

Phew! That was a mouthful.

Yes, yes, The Handmaid’s Tale is getting all the awards love. But this year’s other Margaret Atwood adaptation, Alias Grace, is also stellar, and is being almost completely ignored.

I will be posting a full review of the miniseries (available on Netflix as of this writing) in a few weeks, but let me just say if you haven’t seen it, see it. Based on a true crime that occurred during the 19th century Canada, it features what should be a star-making performance by Sarah Gadon (Belle, 11/22/63). The production is impeccable. It is absolutely gripping from beginning to end and deserves every award out there.

The Netflix, Please Don’t Misrepresent What Your Shows Are About Award

Godless

When I saw the trailer for Netflix’s new show Godless, I was ecstatic. It gave the impression it was an almost totally female-driven Western! Starring Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey)! Sign me up!

Turns out, the show is actually centered on two male characters.

I mean, that’s fine, but trying to represent it as something it’s not? Not cool, Netflix.

The Winter is Here, But It’s Going to Last a Lot Longer Than We Thought Award

The confirmation there will be no final season of Game of Thrones until 2019.

Sob.

The Most Pedantic Explanation of Incorrect Science in a Fantasy Show Award

Neil deGrasse Tyson

After the final episode of Game of Thrones current season, astrophysicist Tyson took the time to do a tweet storm explaining why it’s not possible to drag a dragon out of the water with chains.

Dude. DRAGONS AREN’T REAL. NONE OF THIS IS REAL. NO ONE IS EVER GOING TO DRAG A ZOMBIE DRAGON OUT OF AN ICE LAKE WITH CHAINS IN REAL LIFE.

I love the guy, but I wish he would stick to science and lay off the pop culture critiques.

The Best Villain on TV Right Now Award

Prince Phillip, The Crown

Season 2 of The Crown, the biographical miniseries about Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy), has been almost breathtaking in its frankness about the many skeletons in the royal family’s deluxe walk-in closet. Princess Margaret’s breakdown after she was forced to give up her one true love, her subsequent lover apparently single-handedly bringing about the Swinging 60s, the Duke of Windsor’s traitorous dealings with Nazis, Elizabeth’s jealousy of Jacqueline Kennedy (who doesn’t come off too great, either), and so on.

But it’s Prince Phillip, played by Matt Smith, who comes across as a bona fide bad guy. Not only cheating on the queen, but pretty much blackmailing her into giving him the title of prince as his price for not walking out on the marriage. He sends their son to a horrible school in Scotland where he is bullied for years because he went to the same school and is convinced it made a man of him. All the while acting so proper and princely and whining about his sister-in-law marrying someone beneath her. Smith does a fantastic job of underplaying the role while still making you hate the character.

The Stop Teasing Us About a Deadwood Movie Award

HBO

It’s been almost fourteen years since the HBO series Deadwood was cancelled and almost every year since, like clockwork, they announce we’re getting a movie to tie up all the loose end left by the show’s abrupt ending. Meanwhile, one of the show’s stars (Powers Booth) has passed away.

It’s got to be the longest tease in TV history. Poop or get off the pot, HBO.

The Hey for Once Being an Annoying Fandom Got Results Award

Sense8 Fandom

Kudos to the Sense8 fandom, who hounded Netflix unmercifully when they cancelled the show after only two seasons. We’re not getting more seasons, but they just wrapped on a movie that will tie up all the loose ends left by the show’s abrupt ending. I thought they were fools for even trying, and they proved me totally wrong. Maybe Deadwood fans should take notes.

For your viewing pleasure, I close out with this year’s Movie Trailer Mash-Up by Sleepy Skunk:

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Reminder: the “It Takes a Thief” Blogathon Starts Soon!

There’s still plenty of time to sign up for the “It Takes a Thief” Blogathon! It begins Friday, November 17 and runs through Sunday, November 19.

If you want to join in, leave a comment here or under the original post, or contact me on Twitter (my handle is @DebbieVee).

Looking forward to reading your posts on thievery in film!

Foreign TV Watch: El Barco (Spain)

I make no secret that I am a huge fan of the TV show Lost. I’ve even defended the finale (one of my most popular posts that still gets daily hits). Ever since it ended its successful run, many, many attempts have been made by American TV to duplicate that success. Most were total bombs, a few hung on for a season or two.

(In my opinion, the closest to the show’s feel—with an even more diverse cast—is Netflix’s Sense8. Which only lasted two seasons, unfortunately.)

So it was a very exciting day for me when I discovered the Spanish television series El Barco (The Boat). The show is the tale of a boat stranded in a post-apocalyptic world after an accident during the implementation of a particle accelerator. All the continents disappear, leaving Earth a water world. The boat becomes home for the crew and its passengers, who must try to survive while looking for someplace in the world where land—and possibly other people—still exist.

This type of story is my JAM. Post-apocalyptic, a group of disparate strangers (mostly) who must band together to survive and thrive in the new reality—I love this kind of stuff.

So how does it stack up to Lost? Pretty well, actually, with a few significant exceptions.

The Estrella Polar (the North Star) is helmed by Captain Ricardo Montero (Juanjo Artero), a recent widower, and First Officer Julian De la Cuadra (Luis Callejo). The passengers consist of a group of students on scholarship who are learning how to become sailors, including Montero’s twenty-year-old daughter Ainhoa (Blanca Suarez). Also aboard are Montero’s five-year-old daughter Valeria (Patricia Arbues), Dr. Julia Wilson (Irene Montalà), a medical doctor with a mysterious connection to the scientists implementing the particle accelerator, Ernesto Gamboa (Juan Pablo Shuk), the ship’s survival coach, Salomé Palacios (Neus Sanz), the ship’s cook, and “Burbuja” (translates to “Bubble”) (Iván Massagué) Salomé’s assistant, who is mentally challenged due to a brain injury.

The captain and his first officer are stunned to discover a stowaway, Ulises Garmendia (Mario Casas), who claims De la Cuadra is his biological father.

Yes, his name translates to Ulysses. I kid you not. And I love that. While it doesn’t go quite as far as Lost in referencing literature and mythology, it does it in many ways, especially when it comes to Homer’s The Odyssey. At certain points in the story there are sirens and a cyclops, of sorts, for instance.

The first season is mostly about adjusting to the new world order, with most of the passengers skeptical that the world has really ended. Montero and De la Cuadra have to fight against a mutiny, and the entire ship has to battle flocks of birds that attack the ship because they have no other place to land.

While El Barco is missing the supernatural elements of Lost, there are strange new things the crew has to face, such as giant predators that previously lived so deep in the ocean they weren’t known to exist, and vents in the ocean that appear suddenly and emit poisonous gas.

Against the fight for survival are many emotional stories: of course, with a crew of young, attractive people there are going to be quite a few romances. Though attracted to Ulises at first, Ainhoa falls for Gamboa, much to her father’s distress, because he is much older. Ulises becomes involved with Julia, who is also older (and, unbeknownst to her, has a secret admirer in Captain Montero).

For some reason in these kinds of stories there is always a pregnant girl. In this case it’s Vilma (Marina Salas), who attracts the ship’s cut-up/Lothario Piti (Javier Hernández Rodríguez) and at the same time a young priest, Andrés Palomares (Bernabé Fernandez). Estela (Giselle Calderón) falls for Ramiro (David Seijo), who can’t return her feelings because he is still mourning the girlfriend he lost during the apocalypse. On top of all this De la Cuadra and Salomé, who have sailed on voyages together for many years, realize after the disaster that they are in love.

While I enjoyed most of the love stories, one of the quirks of the show, and how it doesn’t stack up totally favorably to Lost, is the way it can’t seem to weave in the emotional storylines with the action. Over and over, with some horrific disaster bearing down on the crew, the characters choose those exact moments to take time out for conversations about their love/emotional lives.

Flock of birds eating up the now irreplaceable sails? Time for the captain to ponder if he has been a good enough father to his daughters. Boat hanging over a waterfall where two oceans are meeting up? Time for Palomares to confess his love for Vilma. It gets to be almost amusing after a while.

As far as the action, though, and the suspense—this is where the show does a stellar job. There are fingernail-chewing moments in abundance. Both the writing and direction in these areas are on point (and here’s a cool thing: twelve of the episodes were directed by a woman, Sandra Gallego).

During the first season or so Ainhoa suffers a bit from a case of Dumb Girl Syndrome, falling for the obviously villainous Gamboa and defending him over her own father. However, she becomes smarter and more capable as the series progresses, even heroic at times.

They do somewhat better with the character of Burbuja, who was a scientist before his injury. It’s wonderful that a disabled character is shown as heroic (in fact, he saves the boat and the crew more than once). At times the characters infantilize him, but the story never does. Another thing that’s interesting is before his injury he MAY have been complicit in the disaster. Is he a hero who once was a villain? This is one aspect that keeps the story intriguing throughout all three seasons.

There are a few goofy plot points (can’t say specifically without giving away spoilers) but a minor thing that never failed to make me giggle: they never seem to run out of Coca Cola or fresh orange juice. There is one point where they find a cargo of food and get a replenished supply of Coca Cola, but those crates must have been bottomless, because from then on no one has to go without Coca Cola.

We can’t let the apocalypse get in the way of product placement, apparently.

O.K., now we get to the nitty gritty: how’s the ending?

Sadly, not that great. No one goes to heaven in this but it leaves some major questions open. It was so confusing one of the actors had to assure the audience after the finale aired that his character did NOT die.

Even so, up to those last couple of episodes, I thoroughly enjoyed this show, and do recommend it if you’re looking for something like Lost. As of this writing it is available on Netflix streaming.

 

Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon: Juana Inés (2016)

This post is part of the Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon, hosted by Aurora at Once Upon a Screen. Read the rest of the posts in this event HERE!

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

This now-famous quote by Senator Mitch McConnell, which was meant to demean Senator Elizabeth Warren, is a perfect way to describe many of the great women in history, and certainly describes the subject of the 2016 Mexican TV miniseries, Juana Inés.

Based on the life of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (née Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana), the seven part miniseries concerns one of the greatest poets of the Baroque era. Born in New Spain (Mexico) during the 17th Century, she was illegitimate, but nevertheless had an uncle influential enough to get her a place at the Spanish viceroy’s court, where she soon became a favorite of the viceroy and his wife. Still in her teens, she was already a poet and remarkably well-educated for a woman of her time and place. She could read and write Latin and Greek, as well the language used by the Aztecs, Nahuatl. It’s even more remarkable when one considers she was almost entirely self-taught.

When the viceroy’s daughter needs a new tutor, Juana Inés applies for the position (she was only 17 at the time). In an attempt to humiliate her, she is forced to undergo an examination by some of the greatest intellectual and religious minds in the country.

Reader, she passes with flying colors.

Unfortunately, her illegitimate status makes it impossible for her to marry well. Instead, she enters a convent. She finds the Carmelite order too confining and leaves. Eventually she finds a sponsor who is willing to pay her dowry to enter the richer (and less strict) order of Hieronymite nuns, where she stays with until her death. She writes voluminously and collects an impressive library, as well as corresponds with some of the greatest minds of the age, including Isaac Newton.

However, both her fame and intelligence gain her enemies within the Catholic Church (remember, the Spanish Inquisition still exists). She is finally forced to swear she will give up her writing and library. After her death from the plague at the age of 43, it is discovered she never stopped writing and had hidden many of her books.

Juana Inés not only wrote religious poetry, but also love poetry. She had a passionate relationship with another viceroy’s wife, María Luisa Manrique de Lara y Gonzaga, who became her patron after she returned to Spain and helped spread her fame throughout Europe and the New World.

The Mexican television series Juana Inés is a sumptuous production that does justice to the life of this fascinating woman. Arantza Ruiz plays her as a young girl and Arcelia Ramirez plays her as a mature woman. Both give superlative performances.

Hernán del Riego plays Father Antonio Núñez de Miranda, Juana Inés’ confessor, and alternately her sponsor and nemesis. In the series, he is portrayed as a kind of Salieri figure, who appreciates her gifts but is also jealous and resentful of them.

The series does not dance around whether or not Juana Inés was bisexual—it leaves no doubt that the relationship between Juana Inés and María Luisa was both emotional and physical.

The series is amazing in the wealth of details (they even recreate a hair decoration she wore in a portrait made before she became a nun). But what I love about it the most is how they portray Juana Inés as a woman who gave zero you-know-whats for the patriarchy. Again, this was an especially dangerous time for a woman to defy the Church and the status quo. And yet she did just that. She finds a way to always be her true self even though her options were severely limited.

As of this writing, Juana Inés is available for streaming on Netflix. There is no option for a dubbed version, but do give the subtitled version a chance. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

 

The Adrienne Barbeau Blogathon: The Great Houdini (1976)

This post is part of the Adrienne Barbeau Blogathon, hosted by Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog. Read the rest of the posts in this event HERE!

Aside from her work on the television sitcom Maude, I’m not that familiar with Adrienne Barbeau’s work. However, I remembered she appeared in a TV movie of the week back in the 1970s about the magician Harry Houdini and decided to revisit it for the blogathon.

I saw it during its original broadcast, but didn’t recall that it’s actually a very good movie, especially considering how cleaned up most biopics were and still are. On top of that, it boasts a stellar supporting cast, including Ruth Gordon as Houdini’s mother, Bill Bixby as Reverend Arthur Ford, Peter Cushing as Arthur Conan Doyle, Maureen O’Sullivan as Conan Doyle’s wife, Nina Foch as Reverend Le Veyne, Vivian Vance as Minnie, the Houdinis’ nurse/companion, who also narrates the film. And of course, Adrienne Barbeau, as Houdini’s mistress Daisy White.

Paul Michael Glaser stars as Harry Houdini and Sally Struthers as his wife/partner Bess. The film is mainly concerned with their marriage and professional relationship, as well as Harry Houdini’s not very healthy relationship with his mother (Gordon). It also traces his fascination with the supernatural and his crusade to unmask most mediums as phonies and hucksters.

As I said, the film doesn’t clean up his life, and is very honest about his deep depression after his mother’s death, Bess’s alcoholism, and his affair with Daisy. Yes, it does fictionalize a few things: Bess never had a miscarriage after witnessing an almost failed escape stunt, nor did Houdini die after another escape mishap. Bess did not prove that Harry truly contacted her after death with a secret message only the two of them knew. But it’s understandable that these were added to increase the drama. And Minnie is a made-up person, though Vance gets some of the best lines in the movie.

(My favorite: while telling spiritualist Reverend Ford to leave Bess alone, she says “If you contact Robert E. Lee, tell him he lost.”)

Barbeau has only a few scenes, but they’re all good: at the beginning by Harry’s graveside (the story is told in flashback) she encounters Bess. Telling her she has to leave because she has a matinee, Bess counters with, “What’s his name?” (The dialogue is pretty good all around.)

She encounters Harry for the first time backstage and is clearly star struck. While Harry is depressed and separated from Bess, Daisy shows up to check on him (i.e. seduce him). But it’s not done in a cheap way. She confesses to many things (including having had an abortion) and tells him she loves watching him escape because it always gives her hope.

In another likely fiction, Daisy shows up the night Houdini receives the sucker punch to the belly that supposedly kills him (it really didn’t—he died from peritonitis because he ignored the signs of appendicitis). She assures Bess that he is no longer interested in her. Their argument about Daisy is what causes Harry’s distraction when the young man sucker punches him.

Doing research for this film, I found that many Houdini aficionados consider this the best film about his life. Impressive for a TV movie of the week from the 1970s, which have a reputation for being churned out on the cheap.

When it ended after this recent viewing I commented to my mom, “Gee, Adrienne didn’t have a lot of scenes.”

She said, “Yeah, but she was really good.”

Announcing the “It Takes a Thief” Blogathon!

Time for a new blogathon! I am inviting you to write about thievery in films.

The caper, the heist, kidnappings, great escapes, con artists, high-class jewel thieves, art forgers, hungry peasants stealing bread, in any genre–all will be accepted!

You many write about films from any era from any area of the world.

You may also write about television shows, either those featuring a thief as a main character (for instance, Remington Steele or White Collar) or individual episodes featuring thievery (the “Dead Freight” episode of Breaking Bad or “The Train Job” episode of Firefly).

This is a very expansive topic, so my only rule is no duplicates, unless it’s two versions of the same story (i.e. the two versions of The Lavender Hill Mob).

The blogathon will run Friday, November 17 – Sunday, November 19. You may post any day (or earlier, if you wish).

To claim your topic, please request your choice in the comments section below, or contact me on Twitter (@DebbieVee). Include the name and URL of your blog. Then grab one of the banners below, display it on your blog and link it back to this post.

Thanks for joining in!

THE ROSTER SO FAR:

Moon in Gemini: Fun with Dick and Jane (1977)

MovieMovieBlogBlog: Take the Money and Run (1969)

Cinematic Scribblings:  Le Départ (1967)

lifesdailylessonsblog: How to Steal a Million (1966)

Liz Durano: The Usual Suspects (1995)

Realweegiemidget Reviews: The Angels’ Share (2012)

Movies Silently: Alias Jimmy Valentine (1929)

The Stop Button: The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

B Noir Detour: Comparison of The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Rififi (1955)

Once Upon a Screen: The Killing (1956)

Silver Screenings: To Catch a Thief (1955)

Outspoken and Freckled: The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

Caftan Woman: You and Me (1938)

A Shroud of Thoughts: The Saint (1962 – 1969)

Destroy All Fanboys!: Topkapi (1964)

Cinematic Catharsis: White Heat (1949)

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society: Remember the Night (1940)

Critica Retro: Jewel Robbery (1932)

Peyton’s Classics: The Devil’s Brother (1933)

CineMaven’s Essays From the Couch: Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954)

The Midnite Drive-In: The Maltese Falcon (1931) and Satan Met a Lady (1936); the three actors who played Mr. Freeze in the classic Batman TV series (1966 – 1968)

Wide Screen World: Road to Perdition (2o02)

Love Letters to Old Hollywood: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

Dreaming in the Balcony: Arsène Lupin (1932)

Thoughts All Sorts: Man on a Ledge (2012)

Film Noir Archive: Thief (1981)

Top 10 Film Lists: Criss Cross (1949)

The Story Enthusiast: Trouble in Paradise (1932)

It Came From the Man Cave!: JCVD (2008)

Sat In Your Lap: Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977)

Random Pictures: Payback (1999)

Sometimes They Go to Eleven: The Split (1968)

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood: Grand Hotel (1932)

LA Explorer: Charade (1963)

Silver Screen Classics: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

Totally Filmi: Sapthamashree Thaskaraha “Seven Good Thieves” (2014)

4 Star Films: The Big Steal (1949)

 

 

 

Game of Thrones Season 7: The Great, the Good, the Meh and the Ugly

BIG, BIG SPOILERS, DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE NOT DONE WATCHING SEASON 7!

So there have been a lot of critics pooping all over this season of Game of Thrones, wailing that it is past its heyday, blah, blah, blah, blah…

In my opinion, overall, this season was fantastic. The pace of the truncated season was increased so that things happened faster than a raven can fly across Westeros. Several set-piece sequences outdid those of previous seasons. Answers to questions book readers have been waiting for over 20 years were finally given.

Sure, it had its downers, but even Season 4, designated by many critics its “Imperial” season, had them, too.

Let’s break it down!

THE GREAT:

Episode One Cold Opening:

The scene of Walder Frey passing out wine to the male members of his family to thank them for their part in the Red Wedding took me longer to figure out than it should have. Was it a flashback? We had just seen a “previous scenes” segment that showed Arya murdering Walder Frey.

Well, of course it was Arya in a mask, poisoning en masse the entire Frey male line. “Winter has come for House Frey,” she tells Walder’s final child bride.

Perfect beginning to the season.

Cersei Turning Out to be an Effective Leader:

Most of us probably thought Daenerys, with Dorne support, advice from Tyrion and Varys, part of the Iron fleet lead by Yara, the Unsullied, the Dothraki, and three grown dragons, would be close to unbeatable.

That’s why their early defeats were pretty shocking. While the Unsullied easily took over Casterly Rock, the bulk of the Lannister army captured Highgarden, and all the Tyrell gold. Olenna Tyrell was forced to drink poison. Euron Greyjoy, now allied with Cersei, easily defeated Yara’s fleet, capturing Yara, Ellaria Sand and two of her daughters. The alliance was crushed with astonishing speed.

Who’d have thunk it? Seems Tywin Lannister wasn’t the only one who underestimated his daughter. Not to mention it would have been pretty darn dull if Daenerys had easily taken over Westeros.

The Loot Train Battle

Since the Battle of the Blackwater at the end of Season 2, Game of Thrones has set a standard for television battle scenes that often out-do movie battle scenes on a fraction of the budget. This season was no exception. While Jaime and Bronn transfer spoils they won when they took over Highgarden, the Dothraki show up to wup some Westeros ass, capped off by Daenerys arriving on her dragon Drogon. The Lannister army is decimated.

The look on Jaime’s face said it all. His foolish attempt to assassinate Daenerys said it all. At this point, we’re back to believing Daenerys is utterly unbeatable.

The Westeros Seven

There has been a lot of negative commentary about the penultimate episode, Beyond the Wall. Sure, it’s easy to pick apart what seemed like a massively foolish plan to go beyond the wall and capture a wight to show Cersei. Why didn’t they go on horseback? Why did they tease the wights into fighting? Why didn’t they take more men with them? Why does anybody listen to Jon Snow, ever?

Pshaw.

I loved the Dream Team of disparate heroes: Jon, Jorah Mormont, the Hound, Beric Dondarrion, Gendry, Thoros, and Tormund. Many of them hated and distrusted each other. It was a perfect visual for the situation in Westeros: they have to unite to fight a common enemy or all die.

The Ice Dragon

Talk about a game changer. As I said, after the Loot Train Battle, Daenerys seemed unbeatable, even when it came to the Army of the Dead—until the Night King took down her dragon Viserion with an ice javelin and turned him into a zombie dragon.

How do you beat THAT?

THE GOOD:

Sansa and Arya Take Down Littlefinger

Another storyline critics have been complaining about is the one where Littlefinger tries to sow seeds of distrust between Sansa and the recently-returned to Winterfell Arya.

Dudes. Did anybody REALLY think Arya would fall for that crap so easily? I wasn’t even that convinced that Sansa would fall for it. She had been watching Littlefinger in action for a LONG TIME. She used his ambition and “love” for her to get the army from the Vale to support Jon.

Watching the surviving Stark children (including Bran) cause the fall of Littlefinger, the man who directly and indirectly caused much of their misery, was immensely gratifying. So was seeing Sansa and Arya acknowledge they respect the other’s strengths.

The Hound’s Redemption

Every moment more the Hound appears on screen, the more I love the character. I’m not a big fan of redemption arcs in general (see my comments on Theon’s below) but this one WORKS.

Why? Because the Hound has always been capable of empathy. Under all his gruff and grumble is someone who genuinely cared about Sansa and Arya. His regret over the two peasants he killed rang true because he initially thought he was doing them a kindness by saving them from starvation.

“I’m sorry you’re dead. You deserved better.”

I believe he really means that.

Olenna’s Revenge

At the moment she took the poison, the Queen of Thorns told the truth about Joffrey’s assassination—SHE had killed him, not Tyrion.

Perfect end to the character. Diana Rigg was spectacular in her last scene.

The Final Outcomes of This Story Can’t Happen Without Gilly

Gilly makes two key discoveries while reading books at the Citadel:

Where to find the dragonglass needed to fight the White Walkers.

Rheagar Targaryan annulled his first marriage and married Lyanna Stark, making Jon Snow not only not a bastard, but the true heir to the Iron Throne.

Annoyingly, Sam takes credit for discovering both.

A lot of women can relate, Gilly.

THE MEH

Jon and Daenerys’ Lack of Chemistry

Beyond the whole “Ew, she’s really his aunt” thing, I found Jon and Daenerys very blah onscreen together. Maybe it was so many years of anticipation that made it impossible to meet expectations.

Theon’s Redemption

Look. I don’t care if Theon is ever redeemed. No, I didn’t wish on him what he suffered at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. No, I don’t blame him for running away when his uncle captured his sister. He’s been through a lot and that is a totally understandable reaction for someone who is so obviously dealing with PTSD.

But they seem to want to rewrite history. “I always tried to be the right kind of person.” Uh, no, he didn’t, including in the beginning before the Starks’ fortunes cratered. He was an obnoxious, self-involved ass. Unlike the Hound, he never showed empathy for others.

I hope Yara is rescued, but don’t expect me to see Theon as a hero. Even his motivation for rescuing her is selfish.

THE UGLY

The Burning of the Tarlys

I am still trying to puzzle out the purpose if this scene. Sure, Sam’s father was a total creep, and his brother Dickon was a dope. But burning them up seems to have served no storyline purpose whatsoever.

I highly doubt it will turn Sam against Daenerys. (Doesn’t he now become the heir to the fortune he was denied as the eldest brother?)

We get that Daenerys is a badass and can be a ruthless ruler. We didn’t need any more proof that she can sometimes give into the worst of her Targaryen impulses.

It was also weird that they replaced the actor who played Dickon during Season 6 with Tom Hopper, who played Billy Bones in the Starz series Black Sails. Because of this, it seemed the character would have some storyline importance.

Instead, pffft!

Jorah’s Cure

I’m glad Jorah is not going to turn to stone. I’m also very appreciative of Sam’s heroism in attempting the cure for Jorah’s greyscale, risking his own life.

But DAMN.

That was SUPER-GROSS to watch.

Emo Bran

Or, should I say, Non-Emo Bran?

Since he’s become the Three-Eyed Raven, he’s become SO CREEPY. It was especially horrifying to hear him recount to Sansa the details of her wedding night with Ramsay Bolton. And poor Meera Reed, who got a “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” response when she said goodbye to him. The woman risked EVERYTHING for him.

The evolution of Bran’s character has been one of the most disappointing. Hopefully, there’s more to come that will make him less of a soulless ghoul.

Season 8 Might Be Delayed Until 2019

Are you frickin’ KIDDING ME???? The final scene was such a massive cliffhanger and we might have to wait more than a year to see the conclusion????

(INCOHERENT INTERNAL SCREAMING)

Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon – Final Wrap-Up!

Once again, I would like to thank all the bloggers who participated in the Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon–so many great posts! Go HERE for a complete list of all the posts with links.

Here are two more posts that did not make it into the daily recaps:

Outspoken and Freckled asks if the workplace has really changed since the movie 9 to 5 came out.

Serendipitous Anachronisms advises those who want to get ahead to watch Working Girl.

That’s a wrap!

Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon: Day 3 Recap

It may be a day of rest for some, but we still have bloggers working hard on posts for the Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon!

In Once Upon a Screen‘s second entry for the blogathon, she looks at Billy Wilder’s classic office drama, The Apartment.

Thoughts All Sorts peeks in on the BDSM relationship between boss and employee in Secretary.

Cinemaven’s Essays from the Couch tells us The Best of Everything for young women in the 1950s was limited to marriage, with a career meant as a stepping-stone.

Cinematic Catharsis overcomes the creepy crawlies to review Arachnophobia.

MovieRob‘s second contribution to the blogathon is another melding of the horror/workplace genres, Little Shop of Horrors.

Moon in Gemini finds the sisterhood shared by the midwives in Call the Midwife realistic and poignant.

Realweegiemidget assures us the kids are all right in Adventures in Babysitting.

dbmoviesblog reminds us not to mention the war in her review of the Britcom, Fawlty Towers.

Anybody Got a Match? writes about Libeled Lady, a screwball comedy set in the newspaper industry.

If you still have a post to contribute, no worries! I will do another update tomorrow.

I am always amazed at the quality of the contributions to these blogathons, and this one was no exception. Deepest thanks to all the contributors!

 

 

Sisterhood & Heroism: Call the Midwife

This post is part of the Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon, hosted by ME. Read the rest of the posts in this event HERE!

I really don’t care for medical shows.

For one thing, I’m squeamish. For another, I hate going to the doctor or being in hospitals.

Oh, yeah. And I’m kind of a hypochondriac, so anytime I hear symptoms for a disease, I start wondering if I have it.

So when many people started enthusiastically recommending the British TV series Call the Midwife to me, I was, like, no way, ick.

As I’ve mentioned before in other posts, it’s a never-ending hunt for shows to stream for my mom, who is house-bound and disabled. I’m in the room with her a lot when she watching TV, so I end up watching what’s she’s watching whether I want to or not.

This is how I finally saw Call the Midwife, and holy moly, was I hooked from the very first minute.

Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, it concerns midwives, some of whom are Anglican nuns, who work out of a convent called Nonnatus House. They service an East End London neighborhood called Poplar. Beginning during the 1950s (now up to the early 1960s), the series traces not only the personal stories of the midwives and their patients, but the many social and cultural changes, as well as medical advances and scandals of the time period.

Told the first three seasons from the point of view of Jenny Lee (later Worth), a newly qualified midwife, the series still features narration (by Vanessa Redgrave) as the older Jenny. Nonnatus House is headed by Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter), who is loved and trusted by both the nuns and midwives. There is also Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt), who was one of the first women in Great Britain to qualify as a nurse midwife. Elderly and sometimes confused, she is nevertheless beloved by the other Nonnatus House residents. Over the years some of the other characters have come and gone, but currently there are original characters Trixie (Helen George), a midwife, Sister Mary Cynthia (Bryony Hannah), a nun who started as a midwife, and Shelagh Turner (Laura Main), a nurse/midwife who started as a nun.

Each episode features at least one childbirth, and those scenes are emotional and sometimes even terrifying. The midwives also care for patients who are not pregnant, sometimes nursing the elderly, dealing with epidemics, accidents, and the extreme poverty of some of their patients.

Not only do the patients have to cope with illness and other challenges, the women experience mental illness, alcoholism, tuberculosis, their own pregnancies, and crises of faith. The residents of Nonnatus House support each other through their many trials and joys. The love and friendship the women share is the heart of the show.

To the show’s credit, the patients they serve reflect the diversity of post-World War II London. Cultural differences and prejudice are also challenges the midwives and their patients must frequently face. The series doesn’t turn away from controversial subjects such as illegal abortion, female circumcision, and sexual slavery, among others.

If this sounds kind of dry and is making you yawn, let me clarify that the writing of this show is phenomenal, and does a masterful job of weaving the issues in with the emotional lives of the characters. They achieve this by focusing the story on these women who work so hard to give their patients the best care and their babies the best start in life.

So many of these stories could easily turn to sap, but the way the show avoids this is a careful balance of matter-of-factness and optimism. As in real life, tragedy strikes unexpectedly, and there is little time to do anything other than deal with it.

They also build stories in a way that feels very realistic—for instance, before the thalidomide scandal hits, we are shown some of the most beloved characters confidently prescribing it to patients as a way to alleviate severe morning sickness. They do not connect this to the troubling trend of babies born with deformities until the drug is pulled off the market. Watching these good people realize what they have unwittingly given to their patients is devastating.

Jessica Raine, who plays Jenny, left the series after Season 3. One of the other popular characters from the beginning of the show has also departed since (Chummy Noakes, played by the wonderful Miranda Hart). It would seem this would have hurt the show profoundly, but it has not. This is a true ensemble piece. I can envision the series carrying on for many more years with an ever-changing cast.

Call the Midwife is a rare television series that not only deals with women in the workplace, but the main characters are almost all female. The show is written and directed mostly by women.

One of the most crushing scenes of the most recent season featured nurse Trixie putting make-up on a comatose woman (a side-effect of the brand-new birth control pills) so her children wouldn’t be afraid to see her before she dies.

Women caring for other women is a theme we don’t see very often on television. Call the Midwife does it with grace and genuine insight.

 

 

Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon: Day 2 Recap

Bloggers are working their buns off, contributing more great posts for the Workplace in Film & TV blogathon!

Movies Silently takes us behind the scenes of early movie-making with A Girl’s Folly.

Sat In Your Lap embraces the lack of plausibility of the pre-code melodrama Alias the Doctor and discovers it’s an obscure gem.

The Blonde Screwball reviews the Carole Lombard/Fred MacMurray screwball comedy about a manicurist, Hands Across the Table.

A Shroud of Thoughts praises WKRP in Cincinnati as both a great workplace and character-driven comedy series.

Critica Retro traces the career path of a railway mogul played by Spencer Tracy in The Power and the Glory.

Wolffian Classic Movies Digest tackles Charlie Chaplin’s hilarious masterpiece about the rise of technology, Modern Times.

Don’t forget to join us for Day 3 tomorrow!

 

 

Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon: Day 1 Recap

Everybody ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work?

Here are the first amazing posts for the Workplace in Film & TV blogathon:

Once Upon a Screen takes a look at Meryl Streep in the Workplace: Doubt, The Devil Wears Prada, and Silkwood.

MovieMovieBlogBlog makes you appreciate your own employment situation with his review of Glengarry Glen Ross.

Silver Screenings was made a bit uncomfortable by the boss/secretary dynamic in My Dear Secretary.

Cinematic Scribblings writes about The Organizer, whose idealism may both help and hurt factory workers fighting against exploitation.

Caftan Woman reveals the classic TV show Car 54, Where Are You? is much more than just a goofy comedy.

MovieRob reviews Compliance, a movie based on a true-life incident where a prank call to a fast-food restaurant went too far.

The Midnite Drive-In found real-life inspiration while watching the film Teachers.

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society examines the The Impatient Maiden, a pre-code film about a young medical intern.

The Stop Button was disappointed the film FM squanders its cast and story set at a popular radio station.

That’s it for today! Come back tomorrow for more workplace fun!

Firefly is a Sci-Fi Western AND a Swashbuckler!

This post is part of the Swashathon: a Blogathon of Swashbuckling Adventure, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently. Read the rest of the adventurous posts HERE!

The cult TV series Firefly has long been lauded as a brilliant melding of the sci-fi and Western genres. I even wrote about this in one of my first posts for this blog.

I am here to tell you it is also a brilliant melding of the sci-fi and swashbuckling genres.

For those who are sadly unaware, Firefly, which ran only 14 episodes on Fox Network during 2002 – 2003, was created by Joss Whedon and stars Nathan Fillion as the captain of the Serentity, a “Firefly-class” spaceship. Five hundred years into the future, the resources of Earth have long been used up and humanity has settled in another star system, terraforming planets and their moons and holding them together in a centralized government called the Alliance.

Mal Reynolds (Fillion) and Zoe Alleyne (Gina Torres) fought together in the Unification War because they did not want their planet to join the Alliance. When the rebels lost, Mal bought the Serenity and cobbled together a crew including Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), a mercenary, Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite), a self-taught mechanic, and Hoban “Wash” Washburne (Alan Tudyk), a pilot. As the story opens, Zoe and Wash are a married couple who met when the crew was first formed.

As well as their crew, they have passengers, including Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin), a “companion” (high-class prostitute) who rents space on the Serenity, Derrial Book (Ron Glass) a “Shepherd” (a kind of priest or monk), and Simon Tam (Sean Maher) a doctor who has smuggled on board his sister River (Summer Glau). Simon and River are being hunted by the Alliance because River is a genius they want to exploit. Their experiments on her brain have made her mentally unstable.

It’s clear that the Unification War is meant to echo the American Civil War, with the rebel “Browncoats,” personified by Mal and Zoe, representing the Confederacy. As some Confederate soldiers did after the war, they effectively drop out of society and turn to outlawry to survive.

The similarity to Westerns is reflected in the costumes, accents of some of the characters, weapons, and the frontier-like settings of many of the outlying planets and moons. So absolutely, no question, Firefly is inspired in many ways by the Western genre.

But it also resembles the swashbuckler, in various ways.

Outlaws in the West didn’t have ships, but pirates did. The crew even occasionally refer to Serenity as a “boat.” While they do commit crimes similar to those of Western outlaws (i.e. robbing a train) they are often hired by someone else to pull the jobs. In other words, they function as privateers. Like pirates and privateers, they are professional smugglers. While guns are the main weapons of choice, there is an episode where Mal is forced to fight a duel with swords.

Mal is a very authoritarian leader, which makes him similar to fictional pirates such as Captain Flint in Black Sails. Yet he loves his crew and they (mostly) love him back. Unlike most Western outlaws and like many swashbuckling heroes, the crew of the Serenity will forgo money and even jeopardize their own safety for a greater good. Initially outraged by Simon smuggling the fugitive River onto the Serenity, they eventually protect both Tam siblings from the Alliance. They defend the workers of a bordello from a rich man determined to take his child away from one of the women. They enrage a gangster because they give medicine they were hired to steal for him to others who desperately need it, which comes back to haunt them in a big way later in the series.

This makes them reminiscent of another famous swashbuckling band, Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Shepherd Book can be seen as a Friar Tuck-like character and Inara as a somewhat tarnished Maid Marion. In an episode called “Jaynestown” the crew is stunned to arrive in a town called Canton and hear a ballad dedicated to the town’s hero, Jayne Cobb. They sing of how he robbed from the rich to help the poor town. (This turns out to be a total misconception on their part, as Jayne is anything but altruistic, though in the end he usually goes along with the crew’s good deeds.)

Like pirates, Mal and his crew have a strong libertarian streak, suspicious of the centralized government and taking to the sky (sea) as a way to maintain their freedom from its laws and influence. Only Inara, who is a legal prostitute and meticulously follows Alliance laws to do with her profession, is the exception. This is yet another way she resembles Maid Marion, as a representative of the ruling class who lives in both spheres. Like Marion, she loves Mal. Like Robin and Marion, a relationship between them seems to have many obstacles.

The theme song for Firefly has a line that says “you can’t take the sky from me.” One can imagine pirates saying the same about the sea, a domain they can wander in, have adventures, dodge authority, and feel free. Whether intended by the creators or not, the crew of the Serenity are a band of sci-fi swashbuckling heroes.

Announcing the Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon!

Time for a new blogathon! I am inviting you to write about the workplace in film and television.

Films and TV shows featuring workers in offices, factories, restaurants, institutions, you name it, I will accept it!

You can be creative about the meaning of “workplace.” For instance, if you want to write about Star Trek or Galaxy Quest as a workplace, have at it.

Any film or TV show, from any area of the world, any era is eligible.

My only rule is no duplicates. As usual, if two people want to write about two different versions of the same story (i.e. The Front Page/His Girl Friday or British version of The Office/American version of The Office) that is fine.

The blogathon will run Friday, August 18 – Sunday, August 20. You may post any day (or earlier, if you wish).

To claim your topic, please request your choice in the comments section below, or contact me on Twitter (@DebbieVee). Include the name and URL of your blog. Then grab one of the banners below, display it on your blog and link it back to this post.

Thanks so much for joining in!

THE ROSTER SO FAR:

Moon in Gemini: Call the Midwife (2012-)

The Stop Button: FM (1978)

MovieMovieBlogBlog: Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Cinematic Scribblings: The Organizer (1963)

Once Upon a Screen: The Apartment (1960)/Meryl Streep workplace triple feature

Silver Screenings: My Dear Secretary (1948)

CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch: The Best of Everything (1959)

Wolffian Classic Movies Digest: Modern Times (1936)

Movies Silently: A Girl’s Folly (1917)

Caftan Woman: Car 54, Where Are You? (1961 – 1963)

A Shroud of Thoughts: WKRP in Cincinnati (1978 – 1982)

Realweegiemidget: Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

Serendipitous Anachronisms: Working Girl (1988)

The Midnite Drive-In: Teachers (1984)

Anybody Got a Match?: Libeled Lady (1936)

Critica Retro: The Power and the Glory (1933)

Cinematic Catharsis: Arachnophobia (1990)

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society: The Impatient Maiden (1932)

The Blonde Screwball: Hands Across the Table (1935)

Outspoken and Freckled: 9 to 5 (1980)

dbmoviesblog: Fawlty Towers (1975 & 1979)

Movierob: Compliance (2012) & Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Sat in Your Lap: Alias the Doctor (1932)

Thoughts All Sorts: Secretary (2002)

Foreign TV Watch: Velvet (Spain)

My mom, who is disabled, watches a lot of TV now. I am always looking for new shows for her to watch. There are just so many times I can stand re-watching Gossip Girl, so I have resorted to searching for foreign TV shows. We’ve found quite a few good ones, so I thought I would start a series of reviews.

First up is the TV show Velvet from Spain. All four seasons of the show are currently available on Netflix streaming.

We gave this one a try for two reasons: first, we used to live in Spain, and secondly, the male lead is played by Miguel Angel Silvestre, who played Lito on (the now cancelled and lamented) Sense8.

According to a friend of my niece’s who comes from Spain, Velvet is the country’s most popular show. It’s kind of like their Downton Abbey, an impeccably produced period piece with a soapy vibe. Set during the late 1950s – early 1960s, it’s centered around a high fashion department store named Velvet. The son of the owner, Alberto (Silvestre) has been madly in love with Ana (Paula Echevarria) since they were children. Ana works at the store as a seamstress and is the niece of Emilio (Jose Sacristan) who heads the sales staff. Alberto and Ana’s love affair is of the star-crossed variety because Alberto is forced to marry another woman in order to save the store after his father’s death.

I’ll warn you at the outset: there are enough suds in this show to re-float the Titanic. But that’s part of its charm. There are several romantic relationships, some that cross from the downstairs employee living quarters to the top office. There are strong, intense friendships and, of course, plenty of enmities. All of this set against the glamorous fashion business with plenty of vintage fashion to drool over.

Echevarria and Silvestre make a stunningly handsome couple with onscreen chemistry to spare. Following soap opera tradition, Alberto is kind of a jerk who doesn’t really deserve his one true love. He even drops out of the story for part of one season (I assume because Silvestre was busy working on Sense8) leaving Ana to grow as a person, making Alberto even LESS worthy of her.

Whatever. They’re so pretty to look at I doubt most viewers care.

There is some lovely humor, especially involving the characters of Rita (Cecilia Freire) and Pedro (Adrian Lastra). There are lots of scenes of people sweeping stuff off the top of work desks for some passionate lovemaking (in rooms with GLASS doors, no less). But there are serious moments as well, as one character has to battle cancer, and another prejudice because he is gay.

The music is of note because it sounds like it’s from the 1950s-1960s (doo-wop and rock) but many of the songs are by contemporary musicians, not from the era. It gives a period vibe without using the same old songs we’re used to hearing all the time.

One strange thing about the show: with one exception, there is almost nothing that reminds us Spain was a fascist dictatorship at the time. No one mentions the Spanish Civil War, which is astounding to me, because I lived in the country right after this period and the after-effects of the war were still a fact of daily life for many people. I guess they didn’t want that to interfere with the mostly light tone of the show.

Other than that, this show is addictive and beautiful to look at. Unfortunately, there is not a dubbed version available, so you’ll have to put up with subtitles. Well worth it if you’re looking for a high-class soap opera to sink your teeth into.